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The Most Hated Phrases in SciFi: Sword & Laser Podcast

This week we're busy. We congratulate the winners of several year-end awards. We kick off our December book pick, The Night Circus, a beautiful novel by Erin Morgenstern. And we dive into some of the most wretched and hated terms and phrases in the professions of authorship. Mary Sue is under siege!

Full show notes here!
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Boars, Gore, and Swords: A Dance with Dragons: The Bastard’s Boys

This episode is brought to you by Chronicle Books release of Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Season 3 & 4.

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LISTEN: Edgar Allan Poe's Graveyard Visitor

The Poe Toaster

For most of the 20th century, a man in black appeared each year at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. In the predawn hours of January 19, he would drink a toast with French cognac and leave behind three roses in a special pattern. No one knows who he was or why he did this. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we review the history of the "Poe Toaster" and his long association with the great poet's memorial.

We'll also consider whether Winnie-the-Pooh should be placed on Ritalin and puzzle over why a man would shoot an unoffending monk.

LISTEN: Interview with Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror

Gweek is brought to you by Crunchyroll, offering 1080p streaming anime with English subtitles. Try it free for a month by signing up at Crunchyroll.com/gweek

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LISTEN: Native Jefferson shoes, Fit Flops and Bell Bullitt Motorcycle Helmet

This week, Mark, Xeni and Jason talk about their favorite wearables, Native Jefferson shoes, Fit Flops and the Bell Bullitt Motorcycle Helmet.

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Veronica is a Cannibal: Sword & Laser podcast

We sing the praises of Ursula K. Leguin, marvel at the casting of HBO's Westworld, announce our December book pick and wrap up Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. Also, Veronica admits she would eat people.

Full show notes here!
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LISTEN: The Great Moon Hoax

Great Moon Hoax

In 1835 the New York Sun announced that astronomers had discovered bat-winged humanoids on the moon, as well as reindeer, unicorns, bipedal beavers and temples made of sapphire. The fake news was reprinted around the world, impressing even P.T. Barnum; Edgar Allan Poe said that "not one person in ten" doubted the story. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review the Great Moon Hoax, the first great sensation of the modern media age.

We'll also learn why Montana police needed a rabbi and puzzle over how a woman's new shoes end up killing her.

Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Lateral Thinking Puzzles

For this Thanksgiving episode of the Futility Closet podcast, enjoy seven lateral thinking puzzles that didn't make it onto our regular shows. Solve along with us as we explore some strange scenarios using only yes-or-no questions. Happy Thanksgiving!

The real reason you are motivated to work

It’s likely very easy for you to explain your motivations for going to work. David McRaney is not sure he believes you.

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The new Kindle Voyage and the best portable scanner

This week, Mark, Xeni and Jason talk about their new gadgets for archival scanning and e-reading.

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LISTEN: The Secret Dad Society

Mike Evans was a founding member of the touring neo-swing band, Big Tubba Mista, and runs the family fun website, Secret Dad Society. He built a remote control seagull to see what real seagulls thought of it. See the video below!

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LISTEN: Spring-Heeled Jack -- A Victorian Supervillain

2014-11-17-spring-heeled-jack-a-victorian-supervillain

Between 1837 and 1904, rumors spread of a strange bounding devil who haunted southern England, breathing blue flames and menacing his victims with steel talons. In the latest Futility Closet podcast we'll review the career of Spring-Heeled Jack and speculate about his origins.

We'll also recount Alexander Graham Bell's efforts to help the wounded James Garfield before his doctors' treatments could kill him and puzzle over why a police manual gives instructions in a language that none of the officers speak.

Gadgets Giveaway: DaVinci Ascent Vaporizer!

This week, Mark and Xeni discuss their dueling carry-on bag picks and other travel faves, as well as this week’s gadget giveaway — the Ascent Vaporizer by DaVinci. Enter to win by Nov. 17!

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Why we are unaware that we lack the skill to tell how unskilled and unaware we are

Each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning. By David McRaney

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Would Vegetarians Eat Electric Meat? - Sword & Laser

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We have some awesome World Fantasy winners to talk about, some exciting casting news for The Magicians and The Expanse, but it really gets interesting when our Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep check-in turns into an ethics of meat-eating discussion.

Read our show notes here!
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Death and Robert Todd Lincoln

robert todd lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's eldest son, Robert, is the subject of a grim coincidence in American history: He's the only person known to have been present or nearby at the assassinations of three American presidents. In the latest Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the circumstances of each misfortune and explore some further coincidences regarding Robert's brushes with fatality.

We'll also consider whether a chimpanzee deserves a day in court and puzzle over why Australia would demolish a perfectly good building.

Gadgets 018: Stovetop espresso maker, Seinfeld trick calendar generator, speed reading and more

This week, Mark is joined by Dean Putney to discuss the Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker and Coleman Water Carrier, as well as share their favorite gadgets to inspire productivity.

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LISTEN: Dr. Monkey's Retro Scans

Our guest this week is Steve Denton, AKA Dr. Monkey. Steve is an internet scourge, sometime writer, full time smart aleck, and an unrepentant gadfly in the ointment of life.

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The Wow! Signal

The Wow! Signal

In August 1977 a radio telescope in Ohio received a signal that bore all the hallmarks of an extraterrestrial intelligence, leading astronomer Jerry Ehman to write "Wow!" in the margin of a printout. In the latest Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the signal and why researchers found it so compelling.

We'll also share some more nuggets from Greg's database of oddities and puzzle over why a man chooses to drive a long distance at only 15 mph.